Employee Raises

Dear DCSD Board, Interim Superintendent, and Cabinet Members:

At the June 6, 2017 board meeting, cabinet and board members expressed agreement that teachers and staff need to be paid more, and we appreciate and agree with the sentiment. At the very least, increasing teacher and staff pay is necessary for DCSD to become competitive with surrounding districts, but additionally, this is necessary to demonstrate that the DCSD values its employees. As you stated at the meeting, the 2% average raise is woefully inadequate, and to quote Director Geddes, “How can you have pay for performance when you can’t pay for performance?” His statement is truer than than many might know. Using the current controversial evaluation coupled with the flawed pay for performance system, a teacher whose salary is $45,000 and who earned an Innovative rating (above Proficient) earns merely an additional $11.25 per month, before taxes. Teachers were promised real rewards for their additional work; all of our educators deserve better.

Surrounding districts have approved far greater pay raises than DCSD. For example, this year Cherry Creek School District (CCSD) is offering a 3.3% market adjustment in addition to step increases between 3-8%, for a total raise of 6.3-11.3% and an additional raise of 2-5% for knowledge level advancement (KLA). In other words, some teachers in CCSD who have worked towards a first or second Master’s degree are getting raises of 8.3-16.3%. Even if DCSD cuts administrative department budgets and is able to give teachers and staff a 6% increase this year, we will not close the gap with this neighboring district.

Some on the board believe that increasing pay is the only way to improve employee morale; we know for a fact that this is not the case. Educators recognize the constraints of working within a budget. In the past, when the district worked collaboratively with the Douglas County Federation, teachers voted for a pay freeze and had much higher staff morale, as measured by the district’s own employee survey. This is because both organizations worked together on the budget, teachers and staff knew that their voices were heard, and they knew that the district was being transparent. Unfortunately, with an increase of over $21 million in administrative department budgets over the past three school years and no one representing teachers and staff working collaboratively on the budget, employees do not trust that our finances are as dire as what is presented. The DCF executive board knows that the budget can be re-worked to decrease administrative spending and prioritize spending on those who work directly with our students.

Finally, one director’s suggestion at a recent meeting (along with complementary tweets) demonstrates a lack of basic understanding of public budgeting. The suggestion was that parents need to start paying more fees for services and activities such as “football, choir, food, childcare, and busses.” Parents pay fees for football and other extracurricular activities; the fees are used to cover the costs for the activity and cannot be used for salary increases. Choir is among many performing and practical arts electives that meet graduation requirements, without which the graduation rates in DCSD could potentially drop. The district subsidizes food only by absorbing the costs from voluntarily discontinuing the federal reimbursement program, acknowledging that nutrition services are a successful enterprise. An increase of bus fees would likely result in fewer families using busses, resulting in great traffic issues around our schools. None of these options is a practical solution for the funding of salary increases. Additionally, if our district wants to compete for students with surrounding districts, asking for increased payment from parents for these important services and activities is a bad decision.

There are two famous sayings that apply to this important issue. First is that the budget reflects the values of the organization. Second is to put your money where your mouth is. Providing frontline workers in our schools with only a 2% raise demonstrates how little the majority of the Board values teachers and makes many of their words ring hollow. It’s time for the entire Board to prioritize teaching and learning in our district and give teachers a fair, substantial, and well deserved raise–a raise significantly higher than 2%. This is not an issue of the ability as much as it is a willingness to pay–pure and simple.


Kallie Leyba



Teacher Turnover

Teachers are the most important in-school factor in a student’s education, but there has been little commitment across states and districts to ensure equitable access to effective teachers.[i] Areas that serve low-income students and students of color have higher rates of teachers who are not certified in their subject area. Teachers in these areas also have access to fewer resources, less time to collaborate, and less access to excellent mentor teachers. About 13% of the teaching workforce moves or leaves the profession each year, and the neediest schools have roughly 50% more turnover than more affluent schools. We know new teachers can be skilled, but great teaching is often developed over time and through experience. With high rates of turnover, students do not have the opportunity to learn from an experienced teacher.

Teacher turnover costs the United States up to $2.2 billion annually in recruitment and replacement.[ii] Beyond cost, turnover can have detrimental effects on students. One study found that teacher turnover had a significant and negative impact on student achievement in both ELA and math, and turnover was particularly harmful to students in schools with large population of low-performing and black students.[iii] Turnover impacted not only those students with newer teachers, but also those students of returning teachers in buildings with high turnover, indicating turnover impacts the entire building. This could be due to a loss of collegiality or trust, or a loss of institutional knowledge among faculty.

Many teachers leave because of working conditions and the way teachers are treated in schools and in our society.[iv] There is evidence that accountability policies in recent years have led to an increase in teacher turnover.[v] One study showed that schools that were successful on accountability measures such as standardized state or district assessments had better retention than schools with lower performance. Other factors, such as leadership support, classroom resources, school-wide influence, and background characteristics all contributed to teacher turnover. Accountability policies themselves are not the problem, and likely they are not going away at least in some form. However, within those policies, teachers must be given the tools time, and resources they need in order to meet the standards to which they are being held. One key way of doing this is to give teachers autonomy over instructional decisions in their classrooms.

[i] Haynes, M., & Maddock, A. (2014). On the path to equity: improving the effectiveness of beginning teachers. Alliance for Excellent Education, retrieved from http://all4ed.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/PathToEquity.pdf

[ii] http://all4ed.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/PathToEquity.pdf

[iii] Ronfeldt, M., Loeb, S., & Wyckoff, J. (2013). How teacher turnover harms student achievement. American Educational Research Journal50(1), 4-36.

[iv] http://all4ed.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/PathToEquity.pdf

[v] Ingersoll, R., Merril, L., & May, H. (2016). Do accountability policies push teachers out? The Working Lives of Educators, 73 (8), pp. 44-49, retrieved from https://scholar.gse.upenn.edu/rmi/files/accountability_policies_2016.pdf

Teacher-Time Panel Discussion

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During the April 18, 2017 Board meeting, Director David Ray stated that he wants to hear from teachers now that the district has the results of both the teacher-time survey and the employee survey. He is interested to know what teachers would like to see happen based on the survey results. We know other board members are interested in hearing from teachers as well. 

On May 8, 2017, 6:30 p.m., DCF will hold a teacher panel discussion with teachers and Board members to address the results and recommendations from teachers.  

All DCSD Board Members have been invited. The event will be held at the Douglas County Fairgrounds, in the Event Center conference rooms from 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. This event is open to the public. Please spread the word and RSVP here.


DCSD Survey Results 2017

Douglas County School District (DCSD) worked with Corona Insights to conduct a comprehensive survey of employees, parents, students, and community. The results of the survey will be presented to the community and the Board of Education on Tuesday, April 18, 2017. The survey results in many ways mirror the results of the surveys the Douglas County Federation commissioned in 2012 and 2015.

Some specific concerns discovered are below:


  • 87% of teachers with over five years experience in the district disagree that the climate and culture of the district make for positive work environment.
  • 86% of veteran teachers disagree that the evaluation system accurately measures a teacher’s effectiveness.
  • 79% of all teachers (and 89% of those with over five years experience) disagree that the district has a good public image.
  • Only 8% of teachers with over five years experience believe that the district listens to their concerns.
  • Three out of every four teachers disagree that the current pay system is fair; 83% of teachers disagree that the current pay system attracts or retains quality candidates to DCSD.

We sincerely hope that DCSD will realize that their employees need a seat at the table, and that their voices need to be heard. Employees offered similar feedback in multiple surveys over the past several years, but DCSD discounted each of those surveys. We are grateful that the district finally conducted their own assessment to validate the previous results.


Teacher Evaluation: Managing Time to Balance Effective Accountability Systems

All students deserve a high quality teacher in their classroom. Throughout the history of schooling in the United States, teachers have served as the providers of the information students learn, and it has been widely said that a quality teacher is the most important in-school factor affecting student achievement. Since at least the 1800s teacher evaluation has been used in some form to help understand teacher performance, but it is critical that these evaluations be used correctly and effectively.

Teacher evaluations can be used for two main purposes. Formative evaluations are used to improve teaching through feedback on performance and finding corresponding professional development. Summative evaluations are used to support employment decisions such as salary, tenure, and dismissals. Both are needed in order to properly assess how a teacher is performing and how to address areas of need (or areas to reward for success). However, over two-thirds of states made changes to their teacher evaluation laws since 2009, making student growth data a “significant factor” in evaluation.

Research indicates that student achievement data itself does not provide adequate information to improve teacher practice and should not be used for employment decisions, but many of the new laws have done just that. These test scores are not being used to guide interventions, so the impact of these reforms is extremely limited. Standardized test results are used mainly as a point value in an appraisal resulting in high-stakes decisions, such as salary changes and the possible firing of teachers. Teachers receive little actionable information or guidance about how these test results can improve their teaching quality. Other countries give greater weight to using performance data to guide intervention, reveal best practices and identify shared problems, while in the U.S. performance data are often used for purely accountability purposes.

An effective accountability system is a quality present in all countries with high-performing education systems. True professional accountability systems hold teachers accountable to their principals and to other teachers—those who know and understand what the teacher does every day. In Ontario, for instance, teachers are partners and work together to improve their practice. Similarly, Japanese teachers employ lesson study, a method used throughout their careers to design, practice, and improve lessons and teaching strategies. Some countries successfully combine professional accountability and administrative accountability. But tests are used in combination with other measures, and evaluations are used to reward or improve teaching—not to punish or fire teachers.

Current teacher evaluation systems have changed how teachers spend their time. Teachers in this country already spend more time in the classroom than teachers in other countries who get more time to collaborate and lesson plan. Now, teachers must spend more time on test prep to ensure their students score well since that is a significant factor in their evaluations. Teachers also must spend their collaborative time scoring and looking over student data rather than talking about students and instruction. This means teachers have less time to have meaningful professional conversations with colleagues and less opportunity to support and develop relationships with students.


[1] Haertel, E. (2013). Reliability and Validity of Inferences about Teachers Based on Student Test Scores, Stanford University, Angoff Memorial Lecture, https://www.ets.org/s/pdf/23497_Angoff%20Report-web.pdf.

[1] Mathers, C., Oliva, M., & Laine, S. (2008). Improving Instruction through Effective Teacher Evaluation: Options for States and Districts. TQ Research & Policy Brief, http://www.gtlcenter.org/sites/default/files/docs/February2008Brief.pdf.

[1] Haertel, E. (2013).

[1] OECD (2013). Strong Performers and Successful Reformers in Education: Lessons from PISA 2012 for the United States, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264207585-en.

[1] OECD, Strong Performers and Successful Reformers.

[1] Network for Public Education (2016). Teachers Talk back: Educators on the Impact of Teacher Evaluation, https://networkforpubliceducation.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/NPETeacherEvalReport.pdf.

[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/09/oecd-teacher-salary-report_n_5791166.html, from OECD http://www.oecd.org/edu/Education-at-a-Glance-2014.pdf

Leadership in Schools

A number of factors contribute to student success, and it is the role of the principal to create the conditions under which individual variables combine to support and improve student achievement. Leadership is only second to classroom instruction among in-school factors impacting student learning. School leadership can improve school outcomes through support and motivation of teachers and by shaping the environment and climate of the school. Leadership is particularly important, and necessary, in turning around troubled schools.

Principals are no longer building managers as they were traditionally; they have become leaders of learning who are responsible for creating and implementing a vision of success and a climate that is hospitable to learning. Principals can and should cultivate leadership in teachers and work with them to improve instruction through high expectations and ongoing professional learning. Research shows strong links between principal leadership and student achievement. The principal should be aware of what is happening in the school to address current and potential problems.

School leadership is not limited to principals. The OECD defines leadership broadly and suggests that distributed leadership is necessary for school success. Leadership in teams rather than by an individual can contribute to increased effectiveness of the school and students. Even in schools with distributed leadership approaches, the principal still typically carries the bulk of school-level leadership responsibilities. This means districts need to support and retrain current principals to better understand their role in the changing educational environment we have today. Districts also need to prepare and train the next generation of principals through recruitment, training, mentoring, and quality working conditions.

Wallace Foundation. (2013). The School Principal as Leader: Guiding Schools to Better Teaching and Learning. http://www.wallacefoundation.org/knowledge-center/Pages/overview-the-school-principal-as-leader.aspx
National Association of Secondary School Principals & National Association of Elementary School Principals. (2013). Leadership Matters: What the Research Says about the Importance of Principal Leadership. http://www.naesp.org/sites/default/files/LeadershipMatters.pdf
Pont, B., Nusche, D., and Moorman, H. (2008). Improving School Leadership Volume 1: Policy and Practice. OECD. https://www.oecd.org/edu/school/44374889.pdf

Open Letter to Director Peck

January 20, 2017


Director Steve Peck

Douglas County School District


Dear Director Peck,


During this week’s BoE meeting, Director Ray asked how you rationalize a ½% retention for teachers and staff while giving cabinet members a 10% retention bonus. You replied, “people at the top of any organization do deserve higher pay than the people that are entry level . . . I don’t have any heartburn at all with paying our top administrators top pay.” This comment was most unfortunate and I have heard from many of our members this week that your comment was disrespectful, hurtful and, frankly, another hit on morale.  

As you must know, teachers at public schools in Colorado, by law, have to be “highly qualified.” This means they must hold at least a bachelor’s degree, have a Colorado state teaching license, and have demonstrated expertise in their content area (or grade level). Additionally, many teachers in Douglas County hold graduate degrees and most of them have hundreds of hours of specialized professional development. Your comment was directed at the very people who serve our students every day and do the hard work of educating the future generation.

On behalf of our members, I respectfully ask you to take an opportunity at the next Board meeting (preferably at the beginning) to apologize. As Director Silverthorn has acknowledged, and our 58% turnover demonstrates, morale is a big problem for DCSD. Interim-Superintendent Kane has made it her goal to improve the climate and culture within DCSD. We hope that you will take the initiative to move forward with Superintendent Kane’s efforts to build morale in the district.

According to the DCSD website, the BoE serves as a link between the school district and the community. Community members, as you know, love their teachers and have taken great offense at this comment as well. An apology is an important gesture towards your role as a board member to serve this community and foster an environment of mutual respect.



Kallie Leyba


DCF Education Research Series: Quality Instruction

All children should be taught by well-qualified, properly trained, and continuously improving great teachers. Educators need experiences for learning that are ongoing, job-embedded, connected to practice, aligned to school and district goals, and collaborative. To do this, it is necessary to go beyond professional development activities that may be isolated learning events and move toward implementing practices that promote professional growth. Professional learning decisions are made in consultation with the educators who are required to make instructional improvements.

We have always known that having a quality teacher is critical to student success.[i] Teachers have an impact on their students beyond just test scores – they can have long-term impacts on other factors such as graduation, college attendance, employment, and future wages. With few exceptions, the best teachers, the ones who make a difference in children’s lives year after year, are made, not born. Some research shows most of the gains from professional development happen in the first five years of teaching, but that research tends to focus on test scores. Additionally, professional development in this country is often lackluster, and a more targeted and thorough approach would have greater benefits to teachers throughout their careers.

The OECD reviewed nations around the world to analyze what good professional development is and how to get it.[ii] They found that effective professional development is continuous, includes training, practice, and feedback, and provides adequate time and follow-up support. It should also focus on clearly articulated priorities; provide ongoing school-based support to classroom teachers; deal with subject matter, instructional strategies, and classroom-management techniques; and provide opportunities for teachers to observe others and try new teaching methods. Professional development should be developed with extensive participation of teachers, principals, other school leaders, parents, and administrators.

A research report from the National Staff Development Council and the School Redesign Network at Stanford University[iii] found that intensive and sustained efforts of professional development over a period of time are more likely to be effective in improving instruction than intermittent workshops with no follow-up. Professional development is most effective when teachers engage actively in instructional inquiry in the context of collaborative professional communities, focused on instructional improvement and student achievement. This work also encourages the use of the term “professional learning” as opposed to development because it encompasses an ongoing process rather than just a one-off event.

[i] Goldhaber, D. (2016). In Schools, Teacher Quality Matters Most. Education Next, Spring, pg. 56-62.

[ii] Schleicher, A. (2016). Teaching Excellence through Professional Learning and Policy Reform: Lessons from Around the World. International Summit on the Teaching Profession, OECD Publishing, Paris.

[iii] Wei, R. C., Darling-Hammond, L., Andree, A., Richardson, N., Orphanos, S. (2009). Professional learning in the learning profession: A status report on teacher development in the United States and abroad. National Staff Development Council, Dallas, TX.

District E applications

Below are the responses given by the candidates who interviewed for the vacant school board director position.


I am a retired central office administrator from the Jefferson County (KY) Public Schools (with 100,000+ students) in Louisville, KY. For part of my career, I worked in the Grants & Awards department and was responsible for assisting senior management by ensuring that all of the District’s hundreds of grants were properly administered (i.e. all regulations and laws were adhered to, all financial and programmatic reports were timely filed, thus generating audits which were relatively free of material findings). Later in my career, I managed the Gheens Academy, which facilitated the majority of the teacher training sessions as well as hosting sessions for all other types of employees. I supervised a core staff of 10 – 14 people, which could grow to 50+ during the peak times when over 1,000 teachers (out of about 6,000) were being trained simultaneously in various aspects of literacy, math, science, etc. Part of the duties included providing all financial support for the curriculum / content specialists, so I was exposed to and learned expansively about the various instructional programs and practices used by the District. This position also gave me multiple opportunities to gain experience with security procedures, as I had to ensure the safety of everyone on the campus, and it gave me a great foundation for how to deal with difficult people.

Throughout my career, I directly managed many sources of funding, including:
• General fund (operations, salaries)
• State grants (safe schools, literacy, textbooks, after school programs)
• Private foundation grants
• Federal grants (Titles I and II)
While the amount varied each year depending on grants received and assigned duties, I directly managed $75+ million in funds at the peak of the financial part of my career. At various times, I also had indirect oversight over funding for dozens of other grants such as Titles III and IV. My budget experience was not limited to the public schools, as I also administered funds provided to both private and home schools. Many times in my career, I have made tough funding choices to best utilize the available dollars, and therefore understand how difficult it is to reconcile what the fiscal needs are (and what the public wants) with what can truly be provided.

I served an elected term on the Kentucky Retirement Systems (KRS) Board of Trustees, which oversees the retirement plans for over 240,000 active and retired public employees and has investment assets totaling about $16 billion. In that role, I served on the investment and audit committees and was chair of the audit committee. This was a great growth experience for me in that I was exposed to large scale investment strategies, tactics for providing excellent support for our retired members across the country, and, quite simply, having the responsibility for the ensuring that our members could count on KRS to provide the benefits in a timely manner that they had earned over the course of their careers.

My excellent problem solving skills have served me well throughout the years. I love being “hit” with a difficult problem and coming up with a positive solution. It’s important to me that everyone feels they have contributed to the success of whatever the endeavor or “issue of the day is,” so I truly enjoy working to build consensus with all stakeholders.

Through my volunteer work at one of the Jefferson County (KY) Public Schools high schools, I gained tremendous appreciation for the arts. I was the theatrical lighting and sound engineer for countless productions by the show choir both at their school and around the country when we traveled for competitions. Our productions were significantly more elaborate than what a typical high school choir / theater department is able to do, because we had complete access to the sets and props of a company that designed and built them for the Oscars, Broadway and TV shows, and we were fortunate enough to be able to purchase the type of lighting and sound equipment usually only found in professional theaters.

I have been an active volunteer in my children’s (DCSD) schools for the past several years and look forward to continuing being active throughout their educational tenure. I have done odd jobs (such as assembling furniture) to assisting with book fairs, science fairs and athletic events to running the Holiday Shop. I am an active member of the Acres Green PTO and the Eagle Ridge PTA. I also volunteer for various functions at the church my family attends.

With one child in 3rd grade at Acres Green (in the Discovery Program) and twins in 1st grade at Eagle Ridge, I have a vested interest in ensuring that the DCSD continues to strive for the finest educational experience for all children. I always bring an open mind to the table, and when presented with difficult choices resulting from differing opinions, I will strive to listen to and understand all sides before committing to a decision that is best for our children’s future.

There is not one “right” way to increase or improve student achievement (both at the school and District levels), and therefore, it’s critical to include and listen to all of the District’s stakeholders before making decisions affecting the District’s prospective graduates. For instance, a given curriculum may be perfect for one school, but not for a neighboring school, and I’d like to ensure that parents continue to have wide access to a variety of programs (or educational approaches), cultures, management styles, etc

I am an exceptionally quick learner, and while I certainly have a lot to learn about the DCSD, my broad background in K-12 education will easily allow me to “hit the ground running” if fortunate enough to be appointed to the BOE. A personal goal would be to meet with the District’s cabinet level staff and several department heads within the first month for “DCSD 101 training” in order to develop a foundation for understanding how the District operates, who is responsible for what functions, the history of the District, etc. Along those same lines, I would also like to meet with front-line educators and staff to hear what is going great, what is not, and most importantly, what we can do to support them 100%. Being a stay-at-home dad gives me the distinctive opportunity to meet and interact with District and school staff as well as parents and other stakeholders during the day. It is certainly my intent to serve more than one year, and therefore, I plan on running for election to the Board when the appointed term ends.


Summary of Qualifications:
Five years of classroom teaching.
28 years of full-time administrative experience at the junior, middle, and high school levels.
Five years as a principal of academic summer school.
Proven experience in the teacher evaluation process.
Developed and maintained positive rapport with students, staff, and community.
Supervised, mentored, and evaluated teachers through their colleges and universities seeking certification in teaching, counseling, and administration.

Volunteer Work:
Youth Celebrate Diversity, Board Member
Walk-about at Rocky Heights Middle School
Classroom assistant at Buffalo Ridge Elementary
SAC Committee representative at Buffalo Ridge Elementary
Boys’ Basketball Assistant Coach at Highlands Ranch High School
CHSAA, Appeals Board Member
Golf For A Future, Board Member
Boys’ Basketball Assistant Coach at Aurora Central High School
American Cancer Society, Member and President
RECCS Scholarship Committee

To leverage my 33 years of administrative experience within a public school setting to accomplish academic excellence.


Summary of Qualifications:
* 31 year resident in Director District E and a registered Republican.
* I have been a long-time friend of the District, since 1990, which continues to this date.
• Earned Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management / Economics from University of San Diego.
• Active for seven years on the Board of Trustees of the Douglas County Educational Foundation, including two years as President. Instrumental in raising, in excess of $250,000, for worthy grants for students, teachers and parents.
• Served on several committees (budget, Special Education, deaf and hard of hearing) at the request of Rick O’Connell, then Superintendent of DCSD.
• Our daughter was a Special Education student in DCSD from Child Find pre-school to graduating with distinction from Douglas County High School.
• Gained important perspectives by participating in the tri-annual “Staffings” and annual IEP’s for our daughter.
• I supported and was very involved when Rick O’Connell asked my wife to co-chair for a DCSD Bond and Mill Levy campaign, which was successfully passed.
• Merchandise Control & Systems Manager for entire Sears’ western territory. Major responsibility was budgeting for all 800 + retail stores’ inventory.
• Regional Vice President for America’s Cash Express, 125 stores. Key responsibility was developing an annual line level budget for each store.
• Great sensitivity for employee relations, since I have had direct responsibility for over 250 employees during the last 30 years.
• Vietnam Navy veteran, 1968 and 1969, with a Construction Regiment (on-land).

I am fully retired and have the willingness and time to invest as a member of the BOE. I can make all time investments as stated in the application. My commitment is to visit all District E schools within the first 30 days to observe and listen. I have personal strengths consistent with the obligations stated in the application “Board duties and responsibilities may include: a. acting as an advocate for students and public education… d. establishing District priorities through approval of the budget…” As a member of the BOE, I would have as a focus, not only all students but, especially those students with disabilities as well as their parents. I have learned the difference between “advocating” verses being “adversarial” in order to work well with Special Education providers. I would be eager to use my background in budgeting to help inform the entire BOE on moving all possible budget dollars down to the “last three feet, where the students are.” I am pro “choice” by advocating funding for the great neighborhood, charter and alternative schools within DCSD. I believe in utilizing the ‘consensus model’ where we can reduce the heated rhetoric and increase the meaningful dialog on the BOE.


My husband and I have lived in Douglas County since we moved to Colorado in 1996. Our children both attend DCSD schools and we’ve had very positive experiences throughout the 11 years we’ve been part of the DCSD community. I currently serve as Vice President of Business Intelligence at CHI, the third largest non-profit health system in the country. In my role as VP, I lead a team of 65 people who design and develop information solutions to improve the health of our patients. In addition, I manage operational and capital budgets in excess of $10M annually and lead governance efforts with senior leaders and staff nationally. My role requires gathering various points of view, working through controversial topics, and fully understanding complex issues. I feel one of my greatest strengths is leading teams to consensus decisions making that aligns with the best interest of the organization. In addition to the skills I bring from my current role, my prior work and volunteer experiences would make me a valuable addition to the DCSD Board. I have Bachelor of Science in English Education from Illinois State University and taught high school English and Communications and coached speech team for several years. I also worked in higher education at Regis University for over 10 years in various positions including admissions, administration, and operations. My volunteer experience includes SAC member at Acres Green Elementary and district delegate for Highlands Ranch Community Association (HRCA). Previously I tutored through Douglas County Libraries for adult ESL. I enjoy volunteering at my kids’ schools and our church.

My family has had wonderful experiences being a part of DCSD and I’d like to see our district continue to have a positive influence and reputation within our community.

My experiences as a teacher, parent, and professional uniquely qualify me for this role. I believe my skills and personality will provide a positive impact to the current board and the DCSD community.


Navy Officer with 6 years of Active duty service, 2 years in the Reserves – Healthcare Executive at UCHealth Anschutz – Previously employed at Davita Health Partners – MBA in Health Administration

The quality of our schools is a critical part of maintaining a dynamic economy over the next 50 years. Douglas County needs a highly educated work force that can thrive in the new economy. We need innovative schools that challenge convention, inspire our children and support our teachers.

I would be humbled by the opportunity to serve Douglas County on the Board of Education.


I have a Ph.D. in education from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. During my 30-year career, I was a classroom teacher, administrator, education professor, researcher, international consultant, and consultant for Colorado Department of Education. I have been retired for six years, and currently do volunteer work in the Douglas County School District.

I have a granddaughter who attends a Douglas County school. She is 5 years old. I provided full-time daycare for her since her birth. I want her to have an education that ensures that she has both hard and soft skills, so that she can follow her dreams and meet the challenges of the 21st century. I have volunteered in her kindergarten class, and I love all those kids, too. I want for them and all students what I want for her. That is my only agenda.

My core belief is that public education is essential for the success of students, their communities and, indeed our nation. As such, those who are responsible for the direction of public schools must provide an environment for success held to diverse measures and standards which include input from children, parents, citizens, leaders and educational institutions. There is no single way to educate children. There is no single way to measure the success of education. Educational ideas, practices, outcomes and standards flourish in a climate of diversity, support, collaboration, trust, and belief in the merit of each other’s ideas.

MITCHELL WHITUS–Withdrew his application

As a recent 2010 graduate of Douglas County High School, and having attended school in Douglas County from kindergarten through twelfth grade, I experienced first-hand the school district’s education system from a student’s point of view. This is a unique perspective that I hope to bring to the Board of Education.

Additionally, I am the elected president of Liberty Toastmasters-Denver. Managing a team of six officers and over twenty members, I am comfortable setting and achieving goals in a team setting, and I can articulate my vision and values with clarity. We are currently on track to achieve President’s Distinguished status, which is the highest honor given from Toastmasters International for club performance.

During my time at the University of Colorado at Boulder, after being elected Vice President of the Arts and Sciences Student Government, I gained experience working with fellow legislators to prioritize a budget of nearly $100,000 and communicate with stakeholders.

Finally, in my current role as Director of Operations with a public affairs company, I understand the value of good communication. I am responsible for the development and oversight of numerous recruitment events and daylong leadership and educational training.

Being a former K-12 student in the Douglas County School District, I want to ensure that the county provides a world-class education. I plan on continuing to live in Douglas County long-term, and it’s important to me that the school board fosters an environment in which students have the greatest opportunities to succeed, teachers are respected, and parents have choice in their child’s education.

I want to serve on the Board of Education because I believe that I can provide value as a former Douglas County student, and I believe that I can contribute to a positive culture shift in the school district. At the moment, good communication between the board, district employees, students, and parents is critical. I believe that I could provide some of that communication with my skill set and background.

I have spent most of my life in Douglas County. Except for my time during and immediately following college, I have been a resident of the county, and I care very deeply about the education system. I would be very excited for this opportunity to serve the school district which provided me so many opportunities.

Fagen’s Contract: Worth Over $1.5 Million

Fagen contract 1

Superintendent Fagen’s latest five year contract is a great deal–for her.

Fagen employement term

Salary and Perks

Fagen’s base salary is $273,715.05. The salary may be increased at any time during the contract. Based on the two hundred sixty day contract, Fagen’s per-diem (daily) rate is $1,052.75.

Fagen contract salary

If Fagen has paid speaking engagements, she must use her personal or vacation time in order to keep the compensation from those engagements.

Fagen contract outside activities

But that’s not much of a problem, because she has thirty-five PAID days off annually.

Additionally, the Superintendent can be paid out for up to ten days at the per diem rate (of $1,052.75), per year. That is a perk valued at $10,527.50, per year.

Teachers are allowed to cash out unused sick days (for right now) if they have at least ten consecutive years of service. The cash amount for their sick days is currently $48/day, according to the Compensation and Benefits Handbook.

Fagen contract leave

Evaluation Rating: Highly Effective

Fagen’s rating of “Highly Effective” earned her a 5.4% bonus this year. That brings her compensation up to $288,495.66.

Fagen contract performance pay

PERA and Additional Retirement

As a district employee, Fagen receives PERA (Public Employee Retirement) instead of Social Security. She also receives supplemental retirement benefits of up to $20,000/year. Assuming she is receiving the maximum, her annual compensation is $308,495.66.

Fagen contract retirement

In addition to the maximum contribution of $20,000, the district will match any contribution Fagen makes herself–up to one and a half times (the IRS limits the total employer/employee contribution to $53,000)–meaning a possible additional yearly compensation of nearly $20,000.

Fagen contract retirement 2

Anyone who has been to Board meetings knows how much the DCSD school board despises PERA. So, it’s especially interesting that Fagen’s own required employee contributions, 8% to PERA, are generously being reimbursed to her by the taxpayers of Douglas County on the authority of the Board.

Eight percent of her salary, including Pay for Performance, as that is PERA eligible, is $23,079.64. This brings her total compensation up to $331,575.31.

Fagen contract PERA

Fagen contract Fringe Benefits

Fagen’s insurance premiums for her family coverage are fully paid by DCSD, as well as all of her deductibles and co-pays. This means that when Dr. Fagen, or anyone covered by her family coverage, goes to the doctor the district reimburses her out-of-pocket expenses.

Additionally, she has a life insurance policy equal to twice her annual salary.

Fagen contract insurance

Contract Buy-Out with a Million Dollar Price Tag

There is a clause for termination of the superintendent’s contract which includes a buy-out of the contract.

Fagen contract unilateral termination

Using the most conservative number to calculate the buy-out of the contract (base salary only), and given that Fagen has fifty-six months remaining on her contract, the cost to buy Dr. Fagen out of her contract right now is $1,277,336.90.

Intellectual Property

Employees know that all of their lesson plans, notes, programs, etc. that they create as a part of their employment with DCSD belongs to DCSD, based on laws around “Intellectual Property.”

So, one of the most “interesting” parts of Fagen’s contract is this:

Fagen contract ownership of original works

The current DCSD Board of Education has proven to be very liberal with Douglas County taxpayer dollars when it comes to their superintendent. At the same time this school board was vocalizing their desire to be prudent with taxpayer money when it comes fully funding schools and addressing the capital needs of buildings and facilities, they approved an extremely lucrative contract for their superintendent.

The Truth Behind DCSD and the “US News” Best High School Rankings

Liz Fagen and Kevin Larsen spoke on KHOW 630 AM last week to address the fact that NO Douglas County School District (DCSD) schools were ranked on the US News and World Report Best High Schools list, for the second consecutive year. Fagen and Larsen claim that DCSD schools aren’t on the list because US News unfairly “weights” poverty (free and reduced lunch eligible) and therefore DCSD schools don’t qualify. The host of the radio program, Mandy Connell, agreed, and commented that Cherry Creek (CCSD) also didn’t have schools on the list. That, however, is not true–CCSD does have schools ranked on the list, although CCSD has a higher free and reduced lunch percentage (30%) so it’s irrelevant to the argument.

Fagen says, on the KHOW recording, that she believes it was last year that US News changed their methodology–adding a “weighting” for particular students (at risk and minority). Interestingly, US News did change their methodology this year to make it easier for schools to appear on the lists (see screenshot below explaining step 1).

Connell explains that “weighting” means that schools with higher free and reduced lunch percentages “start out ahead,” that the methodology “give[s] them extra points.” Fagen says, “right.”

Fagen goes on to say that schools have “to show that those students [at risk, poverty, minority] perform high in these metrics, so if you are a district that has fewer your schools are penalized in the formula . . . you are unlikely to be able to be in the ranking.”

This portion of the conversation starts out about 75% of the way through the interview, available here.

Well, one might start to feel sorry for DCSD–it seems that the chips are stacked against a district with only 11% of students who are eligible for free and reduced lunch and has a student enrollment that is 76% white.

However, the sixth ranked school in Colorado is Aspen High School (ranked 214 Nationally). Aspen school district has a 5% free and reduced eligible population (and less diversity) while DCSD has 11%,–so much for the argument that schools with low free and reduced eligible students aren’t eligible for ranking.

Below are the Free & Reduced Lunch statistics for some districts in Colorado whose schools did show up on the ranking.

Free and Reduced percentages

Here are a few other examples that negate the argument that Fagen and Larsen insist is the reason DCSD doesn’t have any schools ranked on the list.

  • Academy 20 District
    • Air Academy, ranked #30, #1039 Nationally
    • 13% free and reduced eligibility (just two points higher than DCSD)
    • 74% white student demographic
  • Cheyenne Mountain District
    • Cheyenne Mountain ranked #20, #643 Nationally
    • 14% free and reduced eligibility (just three points higher than DCSD)
    • 74% white student demographic
  • Lewis Palmer District
    • Lewis Palmer ranked #17, #608 Nationally
    • 9% free and reduced eligibility (two points lower than DCSD)
    • 81% white student demographic

US News and World Report outlines the methodology used in the rankings. In Step 1–districts must have students perform “better than statistically expected for students in their state.” Clearly, Aspen and Lewis Palmer, with lower free and reduced eligible percentages, and Cheyenne Mountain and Academy 20, with percentages three and two points higher, respectively, than DCSD, all met that criteria. (See step 1 of the methodology below).

US news methodolgy step 1

Step 2 in the methodology is determining if a district’s “disadvantaged students – black, Hispanic and low-income – were outperforming disadvantaged students in the state.”

US News methodology step 2

Provided that a district (or school) met the step 1 and 2 criteria, the final step involved college readiness, including Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate data. Fagen and Larsen seemed to be blaming the methodology in step 1 or 2, rather than 3. However, step 3 is below.

US News methodology step 3

The methodology also takes into consideration the minority population of the schools. Below is district minority statistics found on Colorado Department of Education’s website. DCSD has a similar ethnic make-up to the other districts as well.


%White %Black %Hispanic %Asian %American Indian or Alaskan Native %Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander %Two or more races
DCSD 76% 2% 14% 4% 0% 0% 4%
Academy 20 74% 3% 12% 4% 0% 0% 6%
Aspen 86% 1% 11% 2% 0% 0% 0%
Cheyenne Mtn 74% 3% 14% 4% 0% 0% 5%
Lewis -Palmer 81% 1% 10% 3% 1% 0% 4%

Interestingly, US News and World Report states that it was actually easier to pass step 1 this year than last year. And yet, still no DCSD schools were ranked, whereas other districts with comparable poverty and minority students (some with less poverty and less diversity) did make the list. Perhaps these districts are truly “world class” and DCSD should be learning from them.

We know how hard the students and employees of DCSD are working each day. However, the bottom line is, the reforms being forced on the students of DCSD are not working and these are the results.